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Chapter 3: Six Months is the New Practically Forever
The first week at Puddlemere was a whirl. The sort of whirl that spun Rona around, no pauses and no mercy and just waiting to fling her out, like a carousel on a rampage.
Or one of Coach Benzy's explanations.
Benedict "Benzy" Bitwater, Head Coach, led most of the introductory week activities. She, alongside the five other trainees, had done their best in following his rapid-fire speeches, which often led to tangents about the Great Upset of 1960 or his beloved poodle Spiffy.
There was no doubt about Benzy's brilliance. The man was at least six parts brilliant. It was he who made Puddlemere the primary contender for the next cup against the juggernaut Tutshill Tornadoes.
But he was also about four parts strange.
"...we've got a dietician on hand. Talk with her sometime. We take our player's meals very seriously. All it takes is one bout of altitude sickness and—well! No one wants to be the lad underneath that!" He laughed heartily, patting his belly. He was getting pudgy with his old age, though he seemed to be enjoying every extra pound. "The kibble I feed Spiffy's got a lot of good stuff I added in there. Keeps his stomach clean—he's got a condition, you see. Now, I'm not recommending that you feed our players kibble..."
There was plenty of headtilting to go around.
At first, Rona had wondered if her... peculiar background would be a detriment. There was no denying it: the Ravenclaw boys had been an odd lot. They were, well, boys. And here, there were men. How could she fit in with all these professional players, people who've been in the league for years—or even decades?
She had her chance to meet the current team and the incoming recruits, one of the many times she crossed paths with Oliver and Jeremy, though admittedly she hadn't paid much attention to those two. Rather, she might have instead been ogling the divinely fit Chaser Riley Angels (who caused such witless lines like 'Your body is nothing short of blessed' to run through her mind) or the equally dropped-from-heaven Seeker Nikolai Losev ('Did you say you were from the mountains, because your abs are rock solid').
Oliver cleared his throat on more than one occasion.
"Maybe if you wore more shirts like that..." she countered one morning as they awaited their assignments. It wasn't her fault that the Puddlemere team just happened to have plenty of well-aged men who looked exponentially more attractive close up.
"You mean the ones that fit so that you can see every contour of every muscle and leaves nothing to your imagination?"
She stared at him, mouth open and fantasies ballooning. "...yes."
He promptly pushed her jaw up to a close. "No."
Sighing, she resumed her dreamy stare at the locker room entrance. "This is how you feel when I don't wear skirts for you, isn't it?"
But the truth of the matter, Rona soon discovered, was that Quidditch was full of people who were just as odd as her old 'Claw family—maybe even one Bludger-to-the-head odder. However attractive, the team still acted like a bunch of loons, and the staff was no exception to the rule.
Amongst her fellow trainees, there was Quinn, who always had her bag, jumper, and shoes matching in the same color. And Richard, who insisted that people pronounced his name as Ree-char-day—like wine, he says. And then she herself was a master of talking too much and too loudly.
One day during practice, the new players got to play with the older lot. They were split into two teams, Team Supreme and Team Supremer-than-Supreme—self-dubbed names, naturally—and were playing head to head.
The middle of the field had become a bottleneck as Beaters flanked both sides, chucking the Bludgers from one end to the other. Riley had the Quaffle and was speeding down the pitch at full speed.
Rona arcing her head up to get a better look, shielding her eyes from the sun. Why was he—? "No, to the left! That's—" She sighed as the Chaser took a sharp right and it was too late to turn around. "...that'll avoid the Beaters."
A gruff voice spoke up from behind her. "If he went to the left, he wouldn't have that chance pass the Quaffle to Berch over there."
Her cheeks flared red as she turned to face Coach Benzy. Oh Merlin, her first chance to prove herself, and she wasn't the least bit prepared for it. Should she agree or argue her side? Was there anything in her teeth? Should she mention Spiffy?
"But it's... it's a pretty big risk," she managed to say. "I'd... I'd uh, seen something similar back in my fifth year." Jason hadn't listen to her either.
"Angels' got the chops for it." Benzy grinned, showing off his one gold tooth.
When Rona looked at the sky again, she found that he was right. The Quaffle was still in his team's possession and was a good ways closer to the goal now, which Oliver was guarding with all the ferocity of a mother raccoon.
So much for proving herself.
The coach pat her roughly on the back. "In time, you'll learn, lassie. No need to sweat broomsticks."
It reinstated a slight bit of hope, but the jargon still eluded her. "Broomsticks, sir?"
"You don't want to be getting splinters!"
He laughed uproariously, and she nodded, adding in a dash of confidence to her smile, not that what he added made any sense either.
But there was, she supposed, plenty of time to figure it out.
The matter of Rona and Oliver's six month anniversary was of utmost importance—apparently. First, Hannah had to inform Rona of the fact.
The restless redhead had arrived unannounced; it had taken less than three visits for her to start treating Jeremy's home like their own. She was pulling at the ends of her hair as she sat cross-legged on Rona's bed. "How can you not do anything?" she cried.
Rona stuck out her tongue. She went around the room, picking up the mess. Three nights of sleep clothes hung on her bedpost, half of her laundry sat on her chair, and the other half was occupied by Claude in the hamper. "What's there to celebrate? Oi, congratulations on not breaking up yet! Bloody ridiculous, I say."
"Not many couples actually last outside of school."
"It's been like a month since school's ended."
"Already? That's practically forever! Don't you know relationships go in dog years?"
Hannah clutched her purse tightly. Rona's eyes narrowed into a squint. "You just want an excuse to doll me up."
The accused girl blinked, glancing from side to side like a guilty dachshund. "I thought you were okay with that in the summer."
Rona frowned. "Why would I be—?"
"Ixnay on the summer-ay," Penny said as she waltzed into the room swinging two large shopping bags in each hand. "What did we say about projecting your commitment issues onto other people?"
"It's unhealthy and intrusive and unwelcome," Hannah recited on cue. When Penny turned around to face Rona, Hannah stuck her tongue out, adding, "And fun."
Rona dropped her pile of stacked jumpers on the bed and peeked inside the Gladrags bag. "What's in here?"
"Clothes for Quidditch party tonight. I need some input." Penny frowned, looking at Rona up and down. "Shouldn't you be getting ready too?"
Hannah's eyes widened, her manicured fingers tapping together most deviously. "Quidditch party?"
Before Rona could open her mouth, Hannah had already extracted three different shades of lipstick from her purse.
While Hannah handled Rona's makeover into a beauty queen (or possibly, a clown), she demanded the details, but there wasn't much to say. It was an event hosted every year in Lichfield that Oliver had been to twice before. Big names were supposed to attend, but he also told her not to get her hopes up. It was mostly Quidditch staff and friends that happened to be in the area. Nonetheless, still fun all around.
"But inviting Penny ruins it," Hannah huffed and then immediately cleared her throat to correct herself. "I mean, not that you ruin things Penny, though who knows? Percy might be rubbing off on you."
'Bint,' Penny mouthed as she waited by the doorway, ready to go. She had chosen a sky blue dress our of her four choices, the first of what she had tried on. Rona didn't doubt that was her decision all along; all Penny needed was a few nods to verify.
"It's just that there's so much potential for cute." Hannah set down the hairbrush and clasped Rona by the shoulders, pulling her chair back. "Your first big gala and Merlin knows that out of you three, Oliver's the third wheel."
"It's hardly a gala." Rona searched her desk for a mirror. This was why she never cleaned her room; she could never find anything afterwards.
"And plus it's full of Quidditch people. He's more like the hundredth wheel," Penny amended. Her foot tapped louder. "Now, are you done turning Rona into a clown? We need to leave soon."
Panic rose in her throat. No wonder Rona felt like she was wearing a seven-layer cake on her face. "Do I actually—"
With all the efficiency of a emeritus prefect, Penny pulled her up and shoved a clutch in her hand. "You look fine. Let's go. Hannah—"
"I won't burn the house down," Hannah chirped, waving. "Have fun! Don't worry about me! I know where Rona's diary is!"
"Oi!" Rona's gaze flew to the foot of her mattress.
Hannah followed her eyes, her grin growing wider. "I know now!" she called as the door shut.
Penny's stubborn grip pulled Rona away from her room before she could claw her way back. "Hannah has been bored out of her mind this summer. Let her have her fun," she said.
Rona huffed, smoothing her dress down before following her down the stairs. "You just don't want to be late."
"No, she said she'd tell me what's in it later." Penny's hidden smirk lit up.
Despite Hannah's dramatization and the deceptively chic ribboned invite, the Quidditch party was just a night to dress a little nicer than usual, get tipsy on wine, and steal more hor dourves than one's waistline allowed.
It was still undeniably the most gorgeous bash Rona had ever been to. The hall belonged to an old wizarding couple who already had all the appropriate anti-Muggle illusion spells in place, which meant going all out with the decorations. They had swan ice sculptures that flew from perch to perch. Outside, the lawn was decked in fairy lights, as if the stars alone weren't pretty enough.
Oliver had come straight from a late practice. Cue a dozen burly men stuffing themselves in suits—in a dank old locker room, no less—followed by the fight for the loo and the floo as the team raced to make it there on time.
Either his suit shrunk or the training had already taken quite an effect. Oliver looked as uncomfortable as a bear in formal wear when Rona and Penny met up with him.
"I don't think I can feel my hands," he whispered to Rona when she tried to hand him a drink.
Part of he wanted to leave him in his scarecrow state, too afraid to move without bursting any seams, but he was quite desperate for circulation and she took pity, casting an expansion charm on the cuffs of his sleeve. He sighed in relief.
"So, I think I'll go mingle," Penny said, pointing out to the lawn with her wine glass. "Being your anniversary of sorts, I'll leave you be. I don't want to be there to hear your awkward excuse when you two want to secretly snog."
Rona wrinkled her nose. "You don't have to do that." Although she was fairly sure Oliver had staked out a list of potential snog spots already. Curtains by the gallery wing was at the top. "Since when do you care about anniversaries?"
"Well, I always enjoyed mine." She shrugged, a mild smile on her lips. "Any excuse to wheedle out Percy's inner romantic is a good day for me. Two hundred seventeenth day anniversary? I'll take it."
"How is he?"
"Fine. Busy. With his Ministry things."
A terseness laced Penny's otherwise lukewarm tone stopped any further questioning. Rona never mentioned it aloud like Hannah, but she always did have that lingering question in the back of her mind: how long did couples last outside of Hogwarts? Just last week, Edie mentioned that Lorrie broke up with her boyfriend of two years before leaving to Germany to study botany. Two years—that was how long Penny and Percy had been together, too.
What did that mean for Rona's six measly months with Oliver? Was it just a ticking clock, a year and a half before things inevitably turned sour? Before circumstance found some wedge to put between them?
"Jon!" Oliver's voice brought her back to the present. He was looking into the crowd, waving. His other arm looped around hers and pulled her toward him. "Rona, Penny, I've got someone I'd like you to meet my uncle..."
Rona had to blink twice when she caught sight of who Oliver was looking at. She still didn't believe he was there until the tall, dark-haired man was immediately before her, flashing a pearly-white smile.
"Mr Ridley!" she exclaimed. Her voice managed to stay level and correctly-pitched for the first three syllables, but any attempt to control the last three went kaput. Rona forgot whether she was supposed to curtsey, bow or, shake his hand.
The result: all three at once.
With a chuckle, the new arrival simply offered a hand. "Call me Jonathan."
Rona blushed hotly as she shook took it a little too quickly and forcefully, her attempt to play cool floundering like a fish in a puddle. Penny was decidedly less manic and more capable of basic human interaction, despite being the bigger fan.
Over the six months, Oliver had failed to mention that one of the biggest Quidditch stars of the seventies had married into his family. Rona was one degree of separation from the Jonathan Ridley all this time, and she didn't even have his autograph yet?
After reminding herself to breathe, she also reminded herself that it hadn't even been a full minute since she was introduced to him.
"Rona and Penny. Very nice to meet you two." The corner of Jonathan's eyes crinkled. "Oliver insisted on introducing me to the brains behind the Ravenclaw team. I can see why."
"I should warn you, Jon. Girlfriend or not, she is not adverse to killing me," said Oliver as he laced his fingers with Rona's. He patted her palm and consoling her as if to say, No you didn't embarrass yourself as much as you think you did, but it was still pretty damn entertaining. "Did I ever tell you? She sent a Beater after me like I was target practice."
"You threatened my Seeker," Rona countered, still a bright shade of red.
"Besides, it was important for the play," Penny added, nudging her with a wink. Bragging by association. "That's how we got those last three goals in."
Jonathan nodded. "Porskoff Ploy. A classic. I take it you two are Harpies fans?"
"Yes!" Rona quickly cleared her throat. "Oh, but we also love Puddlemere—"
He waved off her amendment. "No, my wife is a Harpies fan as well. I completely understand. I'm surprised at Oliver though. He's a Puddlemere man through and through. He swore—"
It was Oliver's time to hide. "Oh Godric..."
"He swore that he'd never even consider a girl who didn't take up the blue and gold." Jonathan mussed Oliver's hair like he was a wee lad again. "Rona must be quite the lady if you've changed your mind."
It was a tiny silly detail, but it still made Rona's heart flutter. Especially when it came from the Jonathan Ridley's mouth.
It was like the voice of a god. A Quidditch god.
"Ahem, it's actually a work in progress." Oliver rubbed the back of his neck. "I'm sure in due time, she'll see the light and convert to Puddlemere fully."
Rona arched a brow, but she couldn't contain the her bubbling giddiness. "Is that so?" He was lucky; the Puddlemere family was certainly making fast work of that for him.
"...I probably shouldn't have said that out loud."
She rolled her eyes, clasping his hand tighter. "You're lucky you're a keeper."
Jonathan snickered. Oliver and Penny groaned.
"How long have you been waiting to say that?" Penny asked, glaring at Rona as if the pun was worse than murder.
Rona couldn't help but grin. "I don't know. Six months?"
A/N Sorry for the long wait ;_; This probably is quite rushed, sorry about that too D: erp I haven't got a lot of time, but I did want to push this out. I'm decided to turn Play into a short story collection, so I think I'll keep making chapters full of these short moments, if people are interested. I've got a lot of these floofy domestic scenes and that's mostly what I want to post so I just want to get to them already xD If anyone's got any suggestions for things you want to see, be sure to mention it in a review! That's where I get a lot of ideas :)